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Father-son rides are still fresh in memory

It was 1:30 on a frosty January morning when the telephone rang in our Amherst home. I rolled over in the bed and picked up the receiver.

"Hello," I mumbled sleepily.

"It's Steve," my son's voice said. "Were you sleeping? I'm sorry I woke you up."

Steve was living at home while he attended the University at Buffalo working on his master's degree.

"That's OK," I said. "I had to answer the phone anyway. What's up?"

"I'm at Kissing Bridge and I dropped my keys in the snow and I can't find them. Can you come down and pick me up?"

I had never been to Kissing Bridge and had no idea where it was.

"You'll have to give me directions," I said. "Hold on while I get a pen and paper."

I wrote down his directions. He was slow and careful. He knew I have a tendency to get lost.

I got out of bed and dressed, putting on my wool shirt and pants. I told my wife about the phone call, and she went back to sleep. I got into the car and began driving, following his directions.

The roads were empty. As I drove I thought about a snowy December when I was in the sixth grade. I went to a basketball game at a high school about three miles from our house. When the game was over, I talked with some of my friends who were at the game.

Before I knew it, the janitor came up and asked us to leave because he was locking up the building. I asked him if I could make one phone call before he locked up. I called my dad and asked him if he could come and pick me up.

"Sure," he said.

When he arrived, my dad was cheerful and smiling. As I got into the car, I noticed that his light blue pajama bottoms were poking out of the bottom of his trousers.

I continued my drive, and reached the parking lot at Kissing Bridge that Steve had described to me at about 2:30 a.m. Two feet of snow covered the ground, with tire tracks throughout the lot. In the center was Steve's car. I began to drive toward it when I saw a figure come out of an overhang near a building and walk toward me. I recognized Steve.

He got into the car and said, "Thanks for picking me up. They closed the bar at 1:30. I went to get into my car and dropped the keys. I just couldn't find them in the snow."

We began the long drive home.

Steve said, "Thanks for driving down all this way. I know it's late and you have to go to work in a few hours."

I said, "You know you have to pay me back for this."

"How can I pay you back?"

"Steve, some day you'll have a son and maybe some time he'll call you up and ask you to come and get him. Don't give him a hard time. Just go down and pick him up."

Steve laughed, "Sure, Dad."

Steve graduated from UB and got a job in California. He married, bought a home and remains employed. He has two daughters, 5 and 7, and a 3-year-old son. Some day his children will be grown. In the middle of the night, one of them might call and ask for a ride home.

Although Steve lives in California and I live in Buffalo, I want Steve to know that I'll be watching him. I'll know if he pays me back in the only coin I recognize.

***

Lionel Nosenchuck, who lives in Williamsville, recalls a late-night drive to Kissing Bridge.

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